Coach’s Corner Blog

Managing Our Career: Part 2 – Staying Confident About Our Competence

January 17, 2014 by Leave a Comment

In our last post, I discussed how a team development model can give us insight about how our career progresses and what we can do to assert as much control as possible over this process. In this post, we will discuss how you can ensure you stay as competent as you need to lead yourself and your team to personal and organizational success.

When it comes to your competence in your job, there are great insights to be gained from the forming, storming, norming, and performing model (FSNP). I think it’s best to begin by starting with the idea that in most situations there are three key variables that any leader must manage simultaneously. These are people, process and performance. Let me explain:

  • People: One of my clients likes to say that we hire these employees, but human beings show up. When it comes to the world of work, people are critical ingredients in making anything happen. But they are also complex and often times difficult to work with for a myriad of reasons. But without our team, we probably are not going to get very far.  Attending to their needs, channeling their interest and energies and providing them feedback and support for their performance are all critical elements of leading.
  • Process: How we get things done and finding ways to continually improve how we do it, have to be a consistent focus of our efforts. We need to not only document processes and procedures, but we also need to ensure that they are commonly understood and followed. Without clarity about this, self correction is very difficult because you just don’t know how to account for the different variables that impact the outcomes.
  • Performance: Performance has several critical elements to it. It reflects on the ultimate work product we are focused upon for our clients or users, the costs associated with performance and whatever metrics or measures of success we have agreed to or need to measure.  Decide on what matters most and track it carefully.

It may seem that reducing our work to these three common variables may seem overly simplistic, but I believe it can be very useful as a part of this diagnostic tool that I am creating with this blog series. So let’s talk about how these three variables come into play in each of the four stages of the FSNP model and how each reflects on our own level of confidence about our competence in our job for each.


  • People: Have you been able to assemble the right people on the team to get things done? Do you have a pipeline of people ready as the project or roles expand?
  • Process: Have you taken the time to focus on the key issue of how the group will get to know each other and start to develop the trust and confidence in each other to work well together.
  • Performance: Have you clarified the goal and focus of the work and are able to communicate that to the team as a rallying point for moving forward effectively?

Competence Check: Some leaders are more attuned to the team development aspects than others. How effective are you at being able to do this? Have you sought out help and support to make it happen?


  • People: Keep your antennae well tuned to ensure that you have the “right people on the bus” and are prepared to act if some people do not seem to fit in.
  • Process: How do you get people to get to know each other? Even more importantly how do you get the members of this team to begin to operate as a team?  What are the tools and methods you’ll use to assist them in creating the focus about the work going forward?
  • Performance: A key element here is ensuring that the means of developing standards, protocols and methods of interacting is focused in a practical way on the key goals of the team. Reinforce. Reinforce. Reinforce.

Competence Check: Some people have broader experience in the process of having teams go through this messy but important process. Do you have a plan for how you will foster the dialogue needed to hash things out? Do you know who to reach out to for help?


  • People: Again the key thing is do you have the “right people on the bus” and are their roles and responsibilities clarified? This is the time you may need to ask some people to get off the bus. Are you prepared for that? Have you begun to understand what makes each member of the team tick or to at least ensure that the leaders that report to you understand this so that everyone can be as fully engaged as possible?
  • Process: This is the point at which gaining clarity about how we get the work done and that everyone is on board with that matters the most.
  • Performance: Establishment of the reporting structures and feedback loops to let everyone know that the organization is starting to click. Does everyone know how what they do contributes to the success of the team or organization?

Competence Check: Some leaders are comfortable and patient with collecting all the needed input to establish this foundation for operating. Others are not. Creating the right communication on this is critical at this stage of things.


  • People: Are the right people doing the right work?  Are they motivated and engaged?  Are your subordinate leaders attending to these valuable resources well?
  • Process: Are you seeking to continually improve how you do things, incorporating insights from the competition in your industry and relevant best practices?
  • Performance: This is a global world where you will always be challenged to do it quicker, better, faster.  Do you stay involved with your industry to know what’s going on and maintain external connections to help you stay current?  Are you on top of the trends that will impact what you do and do you encourage your team to be vigilant as well?

Competence Check: Do you feel confident about how your team is performing? Are you up to speed on the challenges your team is facing and have a good handle on the facts about all relevant metrics. Are you using this to maximize alignment within the team and to the rest of the organization?  

At this point you might be asking what does all this have to do with my level of confidence about how competent I am regarding the team I am leading and work we are charged with? If you feel you are completely on top of the game and have it all under control, give me a call. I’d like to chat with you about your “secret sauce”.

As you move through your career, and you also move up in terms of leadership responsibility, you often get further away from the “technical” details that once distinguished you and had senior leaders notice you in the first place. I recently had a client who was promoted to a significant leadership role and he was drowning in work. It turns out he was reluctant to delegate and not because he didn’t know how, but he was afraid of losing his technical currency; he wanted to stay in the technical mix because he feared losing it. When I finally got him to admit this, he decided he could let go and has never looked back.

The world is moving too fast and changing so quickly that it is very tough to stay on top of all the tactical details much less the strategic long view. To keep your confidence about your competence in perspective, I’d like to summarize here with two final thoughts:

  1. Time: We are all drowning in the avalanche of information and messaging that comes our way. The very best leaders I have ever met never seem to be in hurry. They act with urgency and use their time judiciously as the scarce commodity it is. But they always seem to know what their priorities are and have enough time to attend to them. Make time for planning and building relationships and be very judicious about what you put on your plate.
  2. Communicating: The very best leaders keep a running dialogue going with their team with the primary focus of keeping them aligned to the goals and targets and to supplying them with what they need to be successful. A former client led a successful investment banking organization and complained about his team not apparently absorbing his strategic message over time. I stressed that you have to keep hammering it home and, in time, his messages got through very well.

Next week we will discuss how you can identify and channel your focus to exploit your passion for your work.

I look forward to your comments on this post.

Filed Under Careers


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